Mmegi Online :: Olesitse takes the well-trodden 400m path to stardom
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Tuesday 13 November 2018, 16:21 pm.
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Olesitse takes the well-trodden 400m path to stardom

Shy, unassuming Bernard Olesitse is on track to reach stardom after a recent blistering 400m run in Morocco during the International School Sport Federation (ISSF) Championships.
By Calistus Kolantsho Fri 18 May 2018, 15:01 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Olesitse takes the well-trodden 400m path to stardom








Still wet behind the ear, and despite the recent achievement, Olesitse struggles to make regular eye contact as he narrates his track progress thus far. He is destined for great heights, treading on a regular path that has catapulted the likes of Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda to global stardom.

Botswana is endowed with naturally gifted athletes in 400m who also include female runners, Amantle Montsho, Lydia Jele and Christine Botlogetswe. Olesitse stunned the world when he won a gold medal at the 2018 ISSF Championships, clocking 47:54, which is his Personal Best (PB). He said his plan is to push hard to do a sub 46:00. The athlete, who is a Form Three student at little known Chichi Junior Secondary School, hails from Molapowabojang.

He has sprung on to the scene, relatively late as he was not much in the picture during his early primary school days.  “At primary we were competing with students who were older than us. That made it difficult for fair competition. At Form One, I started understanding athletics and qualifying for competitions,” he says.

Olesitse says he received better training from his coach at Chichi, a Mr Dithakgwe, which led to better performances. His coach encouraged him and believed in his talent. His interest was in the 400m and 800m races. But his coach advised him to stick to the 200m and 400m races.

Olesitse was part of the national team that competed at the World Youth Championships held in Kenya in 2016, where he went all the way to the semi-final. The following year, he reached the final and finished in position six at the Bahamas Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017.

“I embarked on serious training ahead of the ISSF championship. I knew it was a big stage. My preparations started this year. I was not terrified by the stage because of the experience I had,” he says. The next major competition for the athlete this year is the Africa Youth Games, World Junior Championship and Youth Olympics. Olesitse’s wish is to reach the same level as Baboloki Thebe and Isaac Makwala. He says after receiving a pair of spikes (running shoes) from Thebe this week, he got fired up. “My parents are giving me massive support. They always encourage me to take athletics seriously. The challenge I have mostly is the training ground at school, which is not in a good condition. In some instances, I have to travel to Lobatse Stadium for training but money for transport is a challenge,” Olesitse reveals.

Chilume Ntshwarang, who was the team’s coach at the ISSF championship, says his role as a youth team lecturer, has seen him

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work with athletes such as Karabo Sibanda and Thebe during the 2014 Botswana African Youth Games.

He explained that ISSF is the same level as World Youth Championships and Commonwealth Youth Games as it is the same group.

“The only difference is that countries such as United States of America (USA), do not compete in other events such as athletics,” he says.

Ntshwarang says the plan was for Olesitse to compete in the 200m and 400m. He says unfortunately the program changed at the last minute, making it impossible for him to run in the 200m. “I have worked with Olesitse during BISA competitions. I am a member of Jwaneng Athletics Club and we always invite them for training camps. We were together even in Kenya,” he says. Ntshwarang says when they arrived in Morocco, they realised that Olesitse had the best time among his competitors. It was then up to him to control the race.

“I believe he could have done 46:00. To me he did not push himself, he is a strong athlete and he could have done better than that,” Ntshwarang argues. He says Olesitse is in a good shape and this year he is exposed to many competitions.

“There are many challenges in grassroots development when compared to elite. It is up to the goodwill of teachers. As a coach you have to buy athletes spikes and give them transport money,” he notes. While coaches as Ntshwarang are proving vital to the development of athletes, Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) president, Joshua Gaothobogwe says there is no extra remuneration for teachers, who coach students.

He says coaching is regarded as part of their job and they only benefit from overtime allowance. “Sports is expensive and we are unable to train many coaches. The money we get from government is for organising competitions. There is no deliberate plan to train and improve the level of coaching in schools,” he says.

Gaothobogwe says looking at the performance of the country at the moment, the government should be doing more in terms of funding. He said the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) are not doing enough for school sport. “BISA needs around P10million annually to run ball sports and athletics regionally and nationally. We sent only two athletes to ISSF in Morocco but we had an opportunity to send more unfortunately funding restricted us. We are not sure if we would go to the next competition that would be held in China in 2020. There is no consistency in terms of funding,” he says.

Gaothobogwe says ISSF was taking care of the team in terms of flight tickets and accommodation.

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